Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Petitioner Octavio Pina was employed as a pipeline installer by American Piping Inspection, Inc. At the time of his injury, he worked at an oilrig site approximately 130 miles away from his home. Petitioner traveled weekly to Employer's drilling site; he would work 6 days then return home on the weekend. Employer provided a daily per diem payment for lodging and meals incurred. Employer used Petitioner's truck to haul work related equipment and materials and paid him $50 per day for the use of his truck. At the time of Petitioner's injury, it was the practice of Employer to pay for the gas necessary to refuel Petitioner's truck each morning before traveling to the rig site. Petitioner was required to stop at the Employer-designated gas station at the time set by the supervisor. Employer also agreed to purchase ice and water each day for the entire crew, but only if they stopped at the designated gas station at the time specified by Employer. Employer had been paying for Petitioner's gasoline for three months prior to his injury. On the morning of September 22, 2014, Petitioner met his supervisor at the designated gas station to get ice, water and gasoline. The supervisor agreed that "Claimant was reporting to work that morning when he made it to the gas station." On his way to the worksite, Petitioner had a collision and sustained serious injuries. Emergency medical care was given and Petitioner was transported via helicopter for medical treatment. Petitioner never arrived at the drilling site that morning. Although Petitioner did not sign the attendance sheet at the rig site that morning, Employer paid him for a full day of work. Petitioner filed a claim for benefits under the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). Employer denied the claim was compensable within the meaning of the AWCA on the following grounds: (1) Petitioner was not performing employment services at the time of injury; and (2) the injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment. The administrative law judge determined Petitioner's injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment within the meaning of the AWCA and denied his claim. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding Petitioner was in the course and scope of his employment as the term was defined in 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec 2 (13) because his actions at the time of injury were related to and in furtherance of the business of the employer. View "Pina v. American Piping Inspection" on Justia Law

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James David Lind, Sr. (Decedent) was an employee of Defendant-appellee Barnes Tag Agency Inc. (BTA). Decedent was hired in 2010, to perform maintenance work on property owned individually by Defendant Jim T. Roy Barnes (Barnes), the sole stockholder of BTA. On February 21, 2010, there was an explosion on the property while Decedent was present, resulting in a fire. Descendent sustained severe injuries that led to his death on February 26, 2010. Plaintiff-appellant, the administrator Lind’s estate filed suit against BTA and the sole stockholder, alleging negligence. The defendants moved for summary judgment arguing they possessed immunity from suit pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The administrator appealed, arguing the trial court erred by determining that Jim T. Roy Barnes, as the individual owner of the property, was immune from suit. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review in this case was whether the sole shareholder of a corporation, who individually owned the property where an employee of the corporation sustained fatal injuries, was immune from suit for common-law negligence in district court under the provisions of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. The Supreme Court held in the negative: a corporation and its sole owner and shareholder are separate entities and the immunity of the workers' compensation laws that shields the corporation from tort liability to employees does not extend to the owner of the corporation as a third-party landowner. View "Lind v. Barnes Tag Agency" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Stacy Gaasch, as personal representative for the Estate of Troy Gaasch, filed suit against St. Paul File and Marine Insurance Company, alleging the insurance company failed to timely provide reasonable and necessary medical treatment as ordered by the Workers' Compensation Court. Troy required multiple surgeries over several years due to his work-related injury. Troy was hospitalized due to his work-related injury. He allegedly became malnourished with accompanying weight loss and different physicians recommended a nutritional consult. A nurse case manager recommended monthly a nutritional consult. Troy died during his hospitalization approximately six months after the initial recommendation for a nutritional consult. Prior to his work-related injury, Troy underwent a gastric bypass surgery and allegedly suffered from a malabsorption syndrome secondary to this surgery. A disagreement arose between insurer and Troy concerning whether the insurer was required to pay for a nutritional consult. Insurer claimed Troy's nutritional problems were created prior to his work-related injury and his nutritional state in the hospital was not due to the work-related injury. The company moved for summary judgment which was granted. Plaintiff appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) Plaintiff's district court action alleging breach of contract also included a request for damages resulting from the death of the workers' compensation claimant; (2) the district court action was based upon alleged delay by a workers' compensation insurer in providing medical care as previously awarded by the Worker's Compensation Court; and (3) the district court action against the workers' compensation insurer was precluded by an exclusive remedy provided by the Workers' Compensation Act. “Plaintiff attempts to go around this procedure we classified as a ‘jurisdictional requirement’ . . .by characterizing the claim as a breach of contract and an action for damages resulting from an alleged wrongful death. The clear public policy expressed in the amended version of Art. 23 sec. 7 requires available workers' compensation remedies for any type of wrongful death claim to be pursued in the Workers' Compensation Court when required by the workers' compensation statutes.” View "Gaasch v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The constitutionality of section 57 of the Administrative Worker's Compensation Act (AWCA) came before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Claimant Brandon Gibby injured his right wrist and left knee in 2014 when he fell three to four feet from a pallet jack while in the course and scope of his employment. Employer, Hobby Lobby Stores, provided temporary total disability and medical benefits. However, when Claimant sought permanent partial disability, Employer asserted that the forfeiture provision, section 57 of the (AWCA) prohibited Claimant from receiving any further workers' compensation benefits because he had missed two or more scheduled medical appointments without a valid excuse or notice to his employer. At trial, Claimant attempted to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances for missing three scheduled medical appointments. The administrative law judge found none and denied the request for permanent partial disability despite the fact there was no dispute that Claimant's injury had left him disabled. The Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed. Following a review of the record on appeal, the transcripts of the proceedings below, and the briefs of the parties and amici, the Supreme Court held the forfeiture provision found at section 57 of title 85A violated the adequate remedy provision of Article II, section 6, of the Oklahoma Constitution. The section 57 forfeiture provision was therefore stricken in its entirety. View "Gibby v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims determined Jolid Mackey was a physically impaired person at the time of his last injury to his left shoulder in 2013. His physically impaired status was based on several adjudications of disability that predated the last injury as provided in 85 O.S.2011, section 402(A)(4). The Court further determined that he was permanently totally disabled as a result of combining the previously adjudicated disability with the disability from the last injury. The Court thereupon entered an award against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund (MITF). The Court of Civil Appeals interpreted a proviso in 402(A)(4), as limiting use of previously adjudicated disability for determining combined disability. The Court of Civil Appeals concluded that only previously adjudicated disability in the same body part as affected by the last injury could be combined. Noting that none of Mackey's prior adjudications involved disability to the left shoulder, the Court of Civil Appeals vacated the award against MITF. Certiorari from the Oklahoma Supreme Court was granted to resolve the conflict created by the Court of Civil Appeals opinions in this case and in Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Wiggins, 2017 OK 76 (decided September 26, 2017). The Supreme Court held the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims did not err in determining that Mackey had sustained permanent total disability as the result of the combined effect of previously adjudicated disabilities and his last job-related injury in 2013 to his left shoulder. Accordingly, the Court reinstated and sustained the award of permanent total disability against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Mackey" on Justia Law

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The Workers Compensation Court of Existing Claims ruled Maggie Wiggins was a physically impaired person under 85 O.S.2011, section 402(A)(4), at the time of a job-related injury to her back in 2011. This status was based on a “Crumby” finding of preexisting disability in her back that the Court made in the same proceeding to adjudicate disability for the job-related injury to her back. The Court entered a permanent total disability award against the Multi-Injury Trust Find (MITF) as a result of combining these disabilities. In doing so, the Court acknowledged that Ball v. Multiple Injury Trust Fund, 360 P.3d 499, held a Crumby finding was not a previous adjudication of disability that would qualify a person as a physically impaired person for MITF liability. The Court believed, however, that the Legislature added a proviso to 402(A)(4), after Ball was decided, that allowed use of a Crumby finding as a qualifying previous adjudication, if the Crumby disability was in the same body part as the last injury. The Court of Civil Appeals vacated the award, ruling the proviso in 402(A)(4), only allowed Crumby disability to be combined with last injury disability in the same body part, where the claimant had otherwise satisfied the physically impaired person requirement. Certiorari from the Oklahoma Supreme Court was granted to resolve the conflict created by the Court of Civil Appeals opinions in this case and in Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Mackey, 2017 OK 75 (decided September 26, 2017). Upon certiorari review, the Supreme Court likewise held Wiggins was not a physically impaired person at the time of her job-related injury and vacated the award against MITF. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Wiggins" on Justia Law

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A workers' compensation claimant suffered a hernia and recurrent hernia due to work. He requested a contested hearing on the constitutionality of the hernia provision of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act, 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 section 61. An administrative law judge determined 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 61 to be constitutional. Claimant appealed. The Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed the determination of the administrative law judge. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether the hernia provision was unconstitutional because: (1) it violated the due process rights of claimants guaranteed by U.S. Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1 and Okla. Const. art. 2, sec. 7; (2) it was a special law prohibited by Okla. Const. art. 5, sec. 46; and (3) it failed to provide an adequate remedy for a recognized wrong, in violation of Okla. Const. art. 2, sec. 6. The Supreme Court answered in the negative. However, in light of it's opinion in Corbeil v. Emricks Van & Storage, 2017 OK 71, ___ P.3d ___, this case was remanded for further proceedings concerning the application of 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 61. View "Graham v. D&K Oilfield Services" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Lyle Corbeil suffered bilateral inguinal hernias at work, filed for workers' compensation benefits, and asked for a contested hearing on the issue of temporary total disability. The administrative law judge determined that petitioner was limited to six weeks of temporary total disability, despite petitioner's contention he suffered two hernias and should have been eligible for twelve weeks total (six for each hernia). Petitioner appealed to the Workers' Compensation Commission, which affirmed the administrative law judge. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether the hernia provision of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA), 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 section 61, permitted an award of up to six weeks of temporary total disability (TTD) for each hernia suffered by a claimant, regardless of whether the hernias occurred, or were repaired, simultaneously. The Court held that it did, reversed the Commission's decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Corbeil v. Emericks Van & Storage" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kim Young was injured, sought workers' compensation benefits, and approximately thirteen months later her employment was terminated. Plaintiff sued, alleging she had been terminated from employment in retaliation for her workers' compensation claim. Further, she alleged her termination violated public policy and she possessed a tort claim pursuant to Burk v. K-Mart Corp., which entitled her to a jury trial in District Court. She alleged 85A O.S.Supp.2013 section 7 of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act denied her a jury trial and violated Article 2 section19 of the Oklahoma Constitution. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held plaintiff's retaliatory discharge action was not a “Burk” tort, but a statutory action based upon 85 O.S.2011 section 341, which was the retaliatory discharge statute in effect when her workers' compensation injury occurred. Adjudicating the appeal did not require determining whether 85A O.S. sec. 7 violated Okla. Const. Art. 2 sec. 19; the Court’s analysis assumed 85A O.S. 7 was constitutional and thereby expressed a statutory continuation of Oklahoma's long-recognized public policy creating an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine by condemning an employer's conduct taken to retaliate for an employee's statutorily-protected actions related to a workers' compensation claim. The Court also concluded plaintiff's section 341 retaliation claim did not violate 85A O.S.Supp.2013 sec. 7. View "Young v. Station 27, Inc." on Justia Law

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Claimant sought permanent total disability benefits from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund. The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims held that the claimant's combined injuries rendered the claimant permanently totally disabled and awarded benefits. The Multiple Injury Trust Fund appealed. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed, finding claimant ineligible to claim benefits against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund as the claimant was not a "physically impaired person" at the time of the claimant's second on-the-job injury. The dispositive issue presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review was whether claimant met the statutory definition of a "physically impaired person" at the time of the claimant's second on-the-job injury for purposes of determining eligibility for Multiple Injury Trust Fund benefits. As a corollary, the Court considered whether a duly-executed settlement agreement (memorialized on a form prescribed by the Workers' Compensation Court) constituted an adjudication of the claimant's disabilities. The Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Garrett" on Justia Law